I FIRST figured something wasn’t quite right when two of Margaret Atwood’s handmaidens glided serenely past the foot of my bed carrying instruments of torture on silver salvers.

“I see you fiends from hell,” I spat, as a small, dark, tubby creature detached itself from the mini procession.

“Just want a little blood sample,” it said in its devilish language – the mask covering its real intentions.

‘You’re getting no more of my pure blood,” I shrieked, batting its hand away. “You want to kill me.”

Other choice words alluding to their paternity followed.

The demon approached again.

The rest is fairly blurred after that but, bit by bit, I pieced together the messages hidden in the room. Hospital bed, drips and stands, miseries from the health service frowning at me.

I’d gone down again – felled like a giant sequoia for about the seventh time in 12 months. Femur, knee, and now shoulder plus bashed back, arms and face. At least a couple involved overnights on my tiled cold floors.

All I can remember is walking along and then wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.

This time so scared of falling I’d added my crutch to help me, but I managed a couple of steps on the stones outside before I stood, trembling, unable to lift either foot or leg staring back inside.

And then, in an almost graceful gesture fell, backwards – my humerus breaking away from the shoulder socket.

An operation to pin it followed under an anaesthetic block until my heart went like the clappers and I went out and the block was abandoned in favour of a general anaesthetic.

Frankly, I don’t need to nor should I inflict upon you the days and nights to follow.

Apart from the pain following the operation, the surgeon hadn’t told me that my shoulder would still hurt – and hurt a hell of a lot. It also was strapped to me vice-like in a fetching Velcro trapeze artist combination which, after a few hours' wear, migrated to my neck.

All of these – and I told you I’m not telling you a quarter of the indignities – were nothing as compared to what was to come.

Over the last few months I noticed I was getting less and less steady on my feet, particularly outside. Suddenly I had no confidence whatsoever in the power of my legs and I had gone, in 12 months, from being an, not let’s kid ourselves, active woman to quite frankly a semi-frightened wreck. Every day I would stand at the door and talk to myself – telling myself, “for God’s sake, it’s one foot in front of the other – that’s all”. But it didn’t penetrate and the trembling would start and I would turn from the door and return to the seat at the table and the laptop.

I knew it couldn’t go on. But what the hell was I to do? No matter if it’s in your mind or if something else is going on creating the lack of balance and uncertainty, it is all quite terrifying.

So that was the person who now lay in the hospital bed and couldn’t sit up or walk even a step. It was as if the chasm from which I’d imagined the Atwood girls emerging actually existed (although I’m not sure it didn’t). And I was now poised over it with thighs trembling from effort to cling onto the side.

Almost immediately in hospital where I’d spent time six years ago after the first major break they were determined I should leap the chasm and walk and sit on a lavatory seat. The thought of doing such normal activities filled me with a palsied horror and I felt a rawness begin inside me which I realised was sheer terror.

It didn’t matter that I could talk to myself and call myself every name under the sun. The situation existed.

And indeed many of the aides I’d met first time round were still there but because, as far as they could see, I was just being lazy and refusing to do anything they had little time for me now and, in fact, seemed to take a cruel delight in dragging me forward as I backed away, eyes rolling like a terrified horse on seeing the stalls.

I found myself pathetic as I know it sounds to you as it does to me to be seeking their approval and ready to do anything except stand up and shuffle.

The thought of it actually made me feel sick. It seemed such an enormous task to me but then I was told I had to do all these things before I would be allowed home as I lived alone and ideally there should be somebody at home for the length of my recuperation otherwise it was into rehab.

Since then the truth of that has actually knocked me sideways. I have never felt so bereft or alone even with magnificent a Twitter and Herald family of readers willing me. I think some big decisions are going to have to be taken, IF, if, I will actually walk again. But that takes guts and I seem to have lost mine in the last couple of years.

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